The ancient Ivatans drew comfort from a theory that the lava flow that devastated their fields and properties occasionally is also responsible for shaping up their province. Story has it, that all the 10 islands comprising Batanes were peaks in a massive underwater rim built up by lava flows from faults in the ocean floor. These underwater volcanic activities millions of years ago, first fashioned Batan, the second largest island in the province. Its capital – Basco, blissfully situated in the north, is crowned by Mt.Iraya, soaring at 3,310 feet. Thankfully, this forest-clad stratovolcano has been inactive for years; its last recorded eruption was way back in 1454.
The sea of sun-drenched, green hills beckons tourists.
Batanes has been dropping-jaw for year. For first timers, getting acquainted with the province start with exploring Batan Island, which is divided into North and South Batan Tour. North Batan Tour mostly covers the attractions in Basco, which is sort of a sneak peek to what the province has to offer.
The magnificent Basco Cathedral looms over the town proper.
On a recent jaunt, I explored North Batan by bike and a private tour through BISUMI Tours (http://discoverbatanes.com ), owned by a former local tour guide Ryan Cardona. Though biking sounds idyllic because of the island’s scenic countryside, I wont recommend it (unless you are adventurous or a hardcore biker) if you have limited time, and an unreliable bike. Most parts are undulating, thus, ascending can be pretty challenging.
This splendid sentinel,noted for its rubble masonry, offers a breath-snatching view of the rolling hills plummeting into the endless sea.
Since it’s not everyday that I get to visit Batanes, I made sure that I get intimate with all the natural and man-made wonders of North Batan. In Basco town proper, the daffodil-colored Basco Cathedral (Sto.Domingo Cathedral) is worth dropping by, before heading to the iconic Basco Lighthouse famous for its rubble-work – crowning Naidi Hills. This place offers a neck-swiveling view of Batan Island including the surrounding shamrock green Vayang Rolling Hills plunging down the denim-blue West Philippine Sea. Just a few minutes drive from here are the twin odd beaches: Valugan and Chadpidan Beach; flocked by tourists because of their unique boulder-fringed shores. These mammoths are actually andesite rocks (smoothened by ceaseless waves buffeting the shore) ejected by Mt.Iraya during its flare-up.
The boulder-stewn shore of Chadpidan Hills.
Going further, the forgotten Nakamaya Burial Grounds has a tradition to tell. This is the final resting place of the Ivatans, who firmly believe in life after death. Like the ancient burial grounds found in Itbayat, the boat-shaped grave markers face the sea.
Another historic site in North Batan is the Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel, nestled on Tukon Hills. This 5-door channel was built by the Japanese soldiers during World War II. From here, the Basco Idjang, a mountain fortress used by the early Ivatans as centers of communal life and used as defenses when invaders attack. The lesser-known Chadpidan Idjang on Songsong Bay is another site of archaeological importance.
Meander in the 5-door Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnel.
While in Tukon Hills, it‘s a sin not to visit the majestic Mt. Carmel Chapel (also Tukon Church) noted for its rubble masonry. It is owned and built by Abad Family, Batanes’ most influential family. It sits near the posh Fundacion Pacita, a posh boutique hotel associated with Pacita Abad, an Ivatan painter recognized for her colorful trapunto pieces.
Undeniably, North Batan is a place of natural beauty enhanced by man, from the verdurous rolling hills dappled with cows and goats, to the azure sea that hurls itself perpetually against a ruggedly enchanting shoreline. All of them take part in creating an opus of splendor.
The vivid Kulay Festival in Basco,celebrated every month of April.
How to get to Batanes:
Philippines Airlines flies from Manila to Basco and vice versa.
Where to Stay in Basco, Batanes:
I highly recommend Marfel Lodge co-owned and managed by Fe Fitero.
Room rates start at Php 350 per person.
Contact#: (Smart) 0908 893 1475/ 0920 976 4966
(Globe) 0917 857 4493/ 0917 883 3249
For affordable Batanes tour package, I highly recommend,
BISUMI Tour and Services
Contact #: 0919 279 5963 (SMART) / 0915 803 4582 (GLOBE)
Recommended tour guide: Philip Cardona